By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Three companies will be expanding thanks to grant awards from the StartUp Bristol business plan competition.
Both Asarasi, Inc. and Krust Pizza Bar were chosen to receive $22,500 each, and will move their businesses to Bristol. Bristol CT Yoga & Café, which is currently located at 948 Terryville Avenue, Bristol, was chosen to receive $5,000 for a business expansion.
Made up of local business owners and entrepreneurs, the StartUp Bristol Task Force made its final decision early last week after narrowing down the applicants to four finalists. Launched last year, StartUp Bristol is an opportunity for entrepreneurs interested in locating to Bristol or expanding their businesses in the city. The process started with 35 applicants, who had the chance to win up to $30,000 each, with a total of $50,000 available. The task force then narrowed down the applications to 11 companies that were invited to submit full business plans and other information.
Kathy Faber, owner of Kathy Faber Designs, LLC, who serves on the task force, said it was difficult to determine the amount of funding for each finalist, as all of the businesses were “fantastic.” In the end, committee members all came to a consensus on the final decision after brainstorming the applicants’ marketing strategies, uniqueness of product, how much each business could prosper/expand, as well as job creation in Bristol and giving back to the community.
“They all had their shining star,” said Faber, commending the mayor’s administration for offering the business plan competition. “Each business had different priorities and different business philosophies, yet they all were positive, so it was very hard to come to a decision on how to break up the money.”
Started by husband and wife duo Sebastian and Nisha Szewczyk in 2014, Bristol CT Yoga & Café has a mission of introducing a yoga practice that is accessible to everyone’s lifestyle, abilities and body type. Located at Terryville Avenue, Bristol CT Yoga is customer-focused, helping people of all ages meet themselves where they are. The place offers more than just a yoga studio—it also has a massage spa and a café, filled with healthy food and drink options, including salads, organic smoothies, sandwiches, a juice bar, and organic brewed coffee and expresso.
Nisha said Bristol CT Yoga felt honored to be included in StartUp Bristol.
“It’s good to know that the town is doing what it can to help new businesses out and offer the community something special and unique,” said Nisha.
With funding from StartUp Bristol, Bristol CT Yoga is excited to enhance the café area. The menu will be expanded, integrating healthy lunch delivery options for adults and children. Funding also will support market research to better understand the needs of local schools.
“What we’ll be able to do is coordinate with some local schools in town with an age group between 5 and 12 about implementing a case study for yoga for those children,” said Nisha.
Currently based in Middletown, Krust Pizza Bar is looking to open a second location in downtown Bristol, bringing 25 to 30 new employees. Owned by Kevin Wirtes and Richard Garcia, Krust offers wood-fired pizza, craft beers, premium craft cocktails and an expansive whiskey selection.
Wirtes said being chosen for the grant award shows that a community is willing to invest in something they believe in.
“Bristol showing interest really gives us confidence to go there,” said Wirtes.
Wirtes and Garcia expressed interest in Bristol for the same reasons they chose Middletown. Not only do the owners see those cities as up and coming, but they also noted that both communities have a large pool of home-based customers and a large number of commuters who pass through and work there. With a strong presence in the entire state already, Krust aims to be a destination for customers from other towns to visit the restaurant.
Krust owners looked at some properties in Bristol, including the former Downtown Café. Once Krust secures more funding, the restaurant will be able to break ground on the project. The project is expected to bring as many as 35 jobs to Bristol.
“We’ve been [talking] with the owners for awhile,” said Wirtes. “We think that would be a great location for us.”
Like Krust, Asarasi also is excited to grow its business in Bristol. Asarasi is the name of a sparkling tree water that is harvested from the sugar maple tree. When the tree sap is collected, maple sugars are removed, leaving behind drinkable water.
Asarasi offers an unflavored, silky-smooth lightly sparkling water distributed in a 12-ouce glass bottle. The packaging is 100 percent recyclable. Asarasi is already sold at local restaurants and retailers, and more are added daily. To date, the products can be found at Sprague’s Maple Farms Restaurant in New York, Meeting House Pub in Bethel, Taste New York, Tazza Café in Ridgefield, Holiday Valley Ski Resort, Dina’s Restaurant, and Ellicottville Brewing Company.
Adam Lazar, chief executive officer of Asarasi, said it was an honor to be chosen for the grant award.
“It’s about a community…and a city saying, ‘we really believe in this idea, and this individual behind this idea, and the team that’s going to implement this plan,’” said Lazar. “That’s a real honor.”
As Asarasi is a distribution partner with Sysco, a global leader in distributing food that has a location in Rocky Hill, Lazar previously said Bristol is a prime location for the company. Bristol would serve as Asarasi’s headquarters location, and would hire locally.
Some positions that Asarasi will be looking to fill include salespeople that can service the company’s partnerships with Sysco.
We’re going to need a lot of help,” said Lazar.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO